Take a Drink: for sex jokes
Take a Drink: when you recognize yet another famous actor (hint: practically everybody)
Take a Drink: whenever the mission is questioned (Take Two: when Ryan himself does it)
Take a Drink: whenever somebody just doesn’t give a fuck (especially Vin Diesel)
Take a Drink: whenever Barry Pepper quotes scripture
Take a Drink: for each loss from the original company
Do a Shot: when things get FUBAR
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
I was in France in August, so I made sure to visit Omaha Beach, where my great-uncle fought almost exactly 70 years ago. Today, it looks like any other beach, with windsurfers and picnicking families and clear blue water, with only a few monuments and concrete pillboxes to remind you of its bloody past.
Delivering the precise opposite of medicine.
Saving Private Ryan wasn’t actually shot in Normandy (Ireland, actually), but even if it had been, its hellish first 30 minutes would have been unrecognizable… unless you are a veteran, many of whom described them as too realistic. Steve Spielberg’s WWII opus begins with the D-Day invasion, but soon transitions to the story of a group of soldiers sent to track down a certain paratrooper and return him to safety at the behest of the commander of the army. Private Ryan, you see, is the last survivor of four soldier brothers, and the army feels his family has sacrificed enough.
The film, and pretty much an discussion of it, begins with the 30 minute, unbelievably intense depiction of the blood-soaked, bullet-ridden landing at and capturing of Omaha Beach. Steven Spielberg set out to make a film about heroism and sacrifice, but he wasn’t interested in a rousing patriotic puff piece. He instead showed exactly the sacrifices many members of The Greatest Generation made that day, in full stomach-churning, harrowingly, realistic detail, so that the rest of his film’s examination of these often lip-serviced and little understood themes had the proper context.
The fact that this inspired a minor revolution in video games is kind of fucked-up when you think about it.
What emerges is a portrait of the brotherhood that emerges in extreme circumstances due to an almost absurdly stacked cast. Seriously, just about every single speaking role is filled with a recognizable actor, and there are a lot of speaking roles. Barry Pepper’s laconic angel of death sniper has to be my favorite, but everyone acquits themselves well. Then, of course, you have Tom Hanks, receiving his fourth Best Actor nomination for his role. His battle-weary captain is the heart, soul, and conscience of the film, playing directly to his strengths as this generation’s quintessential everyman actor. He is the kindly teacher his character was in civilian life, which makes the affect the war has had on him all the more impactful.
I’d say imagine Jimmy Stewart at war, but he actually was…
Technically-speaking, Saving Private Ryan may be the single most accomplished war film ever made. Every aspect, from set design to costuming to weaponry to practical effects, is achieved as realistically and immersively as humanly possible, and Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski’s use of handheld camerawork and desaturated colors in the combat scenes would influence practically every action film following it.
The result is simply unparalleled combat filmmaking, not just the opening landing scene, but each of the other firefights and skirmishes leading up to the hopelessly outgunned finale. Spielberg plays with vantage points to give us different experiences and drive home his themes, from the brutal first person feel of the opening to a more third person approach through Jeremy Davies’ inexperienced and petrified eyes. In the end, when the elderly survivor kneels at the Normandy American Cemetery with two generations of descendants behind him, we feel his pain, his uncertainty, and the true, human valor he and all of his brothers possessed.
Saving Private Ryan may well be the finest war film ever made, and is at least in the conversation for finest film, period.